Expert Advice on Cleaning Your Pet’s Worst Mess

Spring brings new puppies and house training, along with rainstorms that make already trained dogs unhappy about going outside to do their business.

Both can mean indoor messes.

Cleaning Solutions

If you’re lucky, you can tackle the spot right away.

“You want to soak up as much of the urine as possible with a paper towel or white rag,” explains Brenda Belmonte, owner and primary instructor for Two Paws Up Dog Training in Lake Bluff and practice manager for the Animal Hospital of West Lake Forest. Next, use an enzymatic cleaner like Simple Solution or Nature’s Miracle, or in a pinch use equal parts white vinegar and water.

For stool spots or vomit, Belmonte recommends Spot Shot cleanser for stains. In any case, it never hurts to use a home steam cleaner to extract whatever you can. Unlike urine, stool odors don’t linger as long as you remove all evidence of fecal matter.

If you’re not so lucky and missed the drop-off, you may have to call in a professional. “You have to do more than clean the surface,” explains James Neal, vice president, Rainbow International Restoration and Cleaning in Waukegan. “Depending on the size of the stain and pet, you may have uric acid permeating the carpet backing, cushion and subfloor. And that’s where the odor comes from.” Rainbow’s technicians inspect the stain area, treat with a low ph cleanser to neutralize the urine salts, and repeatedly clean the area with hot water extraction. In worst cases, the accident may mandate replacing the padding and even sanding the subfloor.

Upholstery Complications

Upholstery cleaning isn’t as easy. Every fabric has a different fabric code that dictates what cleaning method to use—some fabrics can handle water-based cleaning, others require solvent-based solutions, and some can only be vacuumed. “Unlike carpet that you can pull up, you can’t rip open a cushion or armrest and see how deep the stain has penetrated,” says Neal.

Both Neal and Belmonte recommend using a pet throw for your furry friend’s favorite spot. Over time, oils from your pet’s coat can leave a stain. Lab and retriever coats in particular tend to be oilier and most stain-prone.

Pet Hair Clean-Up

But what about all that fur?

“Brushing is the best way to cut down on shedding and keep your pet’s coat healthy,” says Belmonte. Your pet’s breed will determine how often to brush as well as the best tool to use. The FURminator works well for most breeds and is particularly good at getting to the underhair and dead coat. Bathing at least quarterly can also help keep the coat healthy and reduce shedding.

As for the pet hair all over your house, Belmonte regrets there is no magic wand so whatever cleaning tool you choose—be it hair sponge, lint brush or vacuum—use it early and often.

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